Last week the races were cancelled because of a snowstorm, but today the weather was much better, although the race course was damp and covered in sand and grit. But we had no snow and no ice like two weeks ago when the race got delayed because the roads were so dangerous. Spring is really on the way!
Today’s race was one of my best; I felt calm going into it, I had just the right amount of time to warm up, I felt a little anxious, as I suppose I must in order to get the energy up to do well, but I wasn’t really nervous. And after we started, I had no problem staying with the pack; in fact, I think because of the dampness of the roads and the sand and grit, the pack moved very slowly at the beginning. We were testing the roads, seeing how safe everything felt. And it didn’t feel terribly safe, actually — as we rounded the corner to head into the backstretch on the first lap, we nearly ran into a flock of turkeys, maybe a dozen or so, that decided to cross the road just at that moment. We managed to slow down enough and yell loud enough so they moved out of the way in time. That could have been a gruesome scene — what would it look like if a pack of cyclists ran over a flock of turkeys? I don’t want to know.
After the first few laps, things sped up a bit, but I had no trouble keeping up, and in fact, as the race went on, I found myself up close to the front fairly often. Someone in front of me would begin to slow down, and I would ride around him and speed up to catch another wheel and stay in the middle of the action. This is something I need to do more often; I tend to hang out in the back of the pack, but often it’s harder to ride back there, as there is a lot of slowing down and speeding up in the back that can sap your energy.
As we crossed the start/finish line at the beginning of the last lap, I thought to myself that I’d done an unusually good job of staying with the pack and that if I fell behind at this point it wouldn’t matter a whole lot — no point in killing myself — but I heard the Hobgoblin yelling, telling me to work my way up to the front so I could get myself in a good position for the final sprint, and I thought, eh, why not. So I worked hard on the last lap, moved up a bit, and was with the pack on the final hill — something that almost never happens to me. Almost always at this point if I’m still in the race, I’m slowing down, falling behind, treating the last lap as a cool-down.
The only bad part of the race happened on the last lap at the bottom of the hill that leads to the finish line — I heard some yelling, saw a body flying, and felt the pack swerve to the left to avoid a fallen bicycle. One of my teammates had crashed, jostled by another rider — he was fine although after the race I saw his front wheel was now pointing in the wrong direction.
I was a bit shaken by the crash, but the rest of pack was rushing on ahead, so I kept going up the hill to the finish, doing a sprint of sorts — I was tired enough by that point I’m not sure I was really going all that fast — but I ended up finishing in 14th place, the first time I’ve ever gotten a place of any sort at this race series (my best ever was a 13th place finish last summer in a different race). When they post results shortly after the race, they list the top 20, so I got to see my name up there.
This isn’t an impressive result, by any means, but for me it’s pretty cool. It means I’m improving — I never got close to doing this well last year — and improvement is all I’m looking for.
And I must say I have the awesomest teammates — even though three of them had gotten 4th, 5th, and 10th place, they seemed more pleased about my finish than they did about theirs.